Red Sox

Beckett battled, but didn't have 'best stuff'

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Beckett battled, but didn't have 'best stuff'

BOSTON -- Josh Beckett didn't have his best stuff on Thursday night. And when your offense lets the opposing pitcher in Max Scherzer off the hook at the same time, it's awfully difficult to complete a four-game sweep against a lineup like that of the Detroit Tigers.
But that's exactly what the Red Sox failed to do on Thursday at Fenway Park, falling to the Tigers 7-3.
Beckett had only one strikeout in seven innings. And while he continued to battle, he saw some solid defense behind him that helped prevent him from allowing more than four runs on 10 hits
"He gave us a chance to win the game," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the loss. "I don't know that that was his best stuff. It seemed like he didn't have his curveball until the sixth inning. He made some pretty good pitches, and they hit a few of them for hits. He did a good job of keeping them at bay."
Beckett agreed with not having his curve ball in this one.
"I made some pitches when I needed to, and didn't make some other ones," said Beckett afterwards. "You have five pitches in a game that you have to make, and I think I made three of them today. The other two cost me three runs in one inning.
"I don't think I had my curve ball to put guys away. It was difficult for me to get the ball down."
Beckett wasn't awful for a guy that didn't have his best stuff, but on a night like that, you need some big defensive plays, and that's exactly what Ryan Sweeney provided in the top of the second inning to keep it a scoreless game at the time.
With runners on second and third and one out, Jhonny Peralta put a fly ball down the right field line, and Sweeney came charging in after it at an awkward angle because of the side wall. But he was able to make the catch and throw a seen into home, one-hopping the ball to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who then made the tag on Delmon Young.
"I thought he made a great adjustment to round it out to get behind the ball and throw it right down the line," said Valentine. "A good defensive play."
"I've always prided myself on my defense and making accurate throws to bases," said Sweeney. "So when I made that throw, I felt like I had a good shot of getting him."
But as good as that defensive play was and may have saved him a few more runs, a couple bad bounces on throws to second from Saltalamacchia turned out to be costly. And when your starting pitcher doesn't have his best stuff, those bad bounces aren't going to help anybody.
Except for the Tigers, who took advantage of the two throws that ended up in the outfield while stealing second, and eventually taking third.
The first came in the fifth inning, as Quentin Berry stole second. Saltalamacchia's throw was on target, but hit a diving Berry and shot out to left field, sending Berry to third, and eventually home on a Miguel Cabrera single that gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead and ended up being the game-winning run.
Saltalamacchia's other throw to second that ended up in the outfield came in the ninth inning, as Cabrera stole second. The throw ended up in center field, and Cabrera took third, only to score on a Prince Fielder triple to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.
"The last one, Saltalamacchia didn't get a good grip on it, and Cabrera caught us all by surprise," said Valentine. "I think Mike Aviles was a little late getting there, and Saltalamacchia was a little late throwing. The first throw would've been right on the bag."
Beckett didn't have his best stuff, and those plays ended up costing the Red Sox.

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel. 

HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

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HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press